Mahogany (film)

Last updated
Movie poster by Bill Gold
illustrated by Bob Peak.
Directed by Berry Gordy
Produced by Jack Ballard
Rob Cohen
Written by Bob Merrill
John Byrum
Story by Toni Amber
Starring Diana Ross
Billy Dee Williams
Jean-Pierre Aumont
Anthony Perkins
Music by Michael Masser
Cinematography David Watkin
Edited by Peter Zinner
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date
  • October 8, 1975 (1975-10-08)
Running time
109 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$3.5 million [1]
Box office$5,000,000 [2]

Mahogany is a 1975 American romantic drama film directed by Berry Gordy and produced by Motown Productions. The Motown founder Gordy took over the film direction after British filmmaker Tony Richardson was dismissed from the film. Mahogany stars Diana Ross as Tracy Chambers, a struggling fashion design student who rises to become a popular fashion designer in Rome. Fresh from the success of Lady Sings the Blues , this film served as Ross' follow-up feature film. It was released on October 8, 1975.

Berry Gordy American record producer, songwriter and founder of Motown record label

Berry Gordy III is an American record executive, record producer, songwriter, film producer and television producer. He is best known as the founder of the Motown record label and its subsidiaries, which was the highest-earning African-American business for decades.

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom (UK), officially the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and sometimes referred to as Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. With an area of 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi), the United Kingdom is the 78th-largest sovereign state in the world. It is also the 22nd-most populous country, with an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

Tony Richardson English theatre and film director and producer

Cecil Antonio "Tony" Richardson was an English filmmaker. He was best known for directing the films Tom Jones (1963), which won him the Academy Award for Best Director; The Hotel New Hampshire (1984); and his final film, Blue Sky (1994).



Tracy Chambers is a sassy industrious young woman living on the southside of Chicago who dreams of becoming a fashion designer. She has worked her way up from salesgirl to secretary and assistant to the head buyer at a luxury department store (modeled after, and filmed at, Marshall Field's on State Street, Chicago). [3] Her supervisor at the department store, Miss Evans (Nina Foch), does not support Tracy's desire to be a designer. She dissuades her from taking the night class due to her belief that it is interfering with Tracy doing her job for her effectively. In actuality Tracy is attempting to bring her dream of being a designer into fruition. She visits her aunt who works in a factory and gives her designs to sew together for her and she visits buyers to see if anyone will purchase her designs. There are no takers as well as comments made to her that the designs are good for Paris but not Chicago. She does not give up though.

Marshall Field's was a department store in Chicago, Illinois, that grew to become a chain before being acquired by Federated Department Stores in 2005.

One day a great photographer, Sean, played by Anthony Perkins, comes to the department store to shoot models, all Caucasian. He is clearly dissatisfied with the models and the shoot. Tracy and Miss Evans come in to observe and see what they can do for him. As soon as Tracy meets him she begins to talk about what a great photographer he is, Miss Evans cuts her off by asking her to fetch chairs for the models and coffee for herself and Sean. When Sean first sees Tracy he says that she is the type of model that he is looking for not realizing that she is Miss Evans secretary. Miss Evans then insists that she is only a secretary to which Sean insists that he has found a great model. Tracy is smitten with the attentions of the photographer because he is a conduit into the world of fashion that she is working so hard to get into but she is not romantically interested in him. When his time is done in Chicago he lets her know that she would do great in Rome and that he will be sending for her in the future. She takes that news with a grain of salt.

Anthony Perkins American actor and director

Anthony Perkins was an American actor and singer. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his second film, Friendly Persuasion, but is best known for playing Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) and its three sequels. His other films include Fear Strikes Out (1957), The Matchmaker (1958), On the Beach (1959), Tall Story (1960), The Trial (1962), Phaedra (1962), Five Miles to Midnight (1962), Pretty Poison (1968), Murder on the Orient Express (1974), Mahogany (1975), North Sea Hijack (1979), The Black Hole (1979), and Crimes of Passion (1984).

One night, while coming home from her art class, she is verbally accosted by Brian Walker (Billy Dee Williams), a local activist trying to make the neighborhood aware of the gentrification taking place in their community and attempting to drum up support for change. Tracy is tired and somewhat beleaguered by her circumstances. When Brian directly addresses her through the bullhorn as she walks past him, she then begins to exchange verbal slings with him because she is in no mood. During the verbal exchange, an upstairs neighbor looks out his window and yells at Brian about making so much noise late at night while opening a can of beer and some of the foam falls on Tracy. Everyone laughs, except for Tracy who then, in a beer-soaked huff, heads up to her apartment.

Tracy again encounters Brian during her walk to work. She sees and hears him talking through a bullhorn while neighborhood buildings are being demolished. The construction workers make comments meant to annoy Brian, such as that the neighborhood is better with the rat infested buildings coming down. However, Brian decides that he will not retaliate and continues to speak about the situation. At one point, Brian puts the bullhorn down and Tracy sees her chance to get back at him for their last encounter. While no one is looking, she pours milk into the mouthpiece. When he picks it up, the milk splatters all over him. For Brian, this is the last straw. He assumes that one of the construction workers has done it and a free for all fight begins. The police are called and Brian is taken to jail.

When Brian is let out, he finds Tracy waiting outside the police station. She tells him that she bailed him out because it was she who had poured the milk. She also tells him that she has written a bum check for his bail and they high tail it away from the precinct. He tells her that he will give it back to her and he then talks about when. She tells him that she is not interested in him and that she was only relieving her guilty conscience for the misunderstanding which put him in jail. He insists that he will return the money and so she tells him to put it in the mail slot.

One night she hears coins, lots of them, being placed in her mail slot. She opens the slot and tons of change fall to the floor. She opens the door and finds Brian is in the hallway. They begin a relationship at that point and Brian becomes her boyfriend. Their relationship includes her assisting in his running unsuccessfully for office in the district. The same night when Brian insists Tracy give up her dreams for his, Tracy receives a call from Sean (Anthony Perkins) to come to Rome and she flees in the middle of the night to become his muse.

Sean reinvents Tracy as "Mahogany" and ultimately she becomes among the most in-demand fashion models. An uneasy relationship develops with Sean, who is possessive and jealous of anyone vying for Tracy's attention. He struggles to control Tracy sexually and artistically by discouraging her attempts to break away from modeling and further her design aspirations. Tracy, feeling she owes Sean a great deal for bringing her into a world where she has wealth and fame, reluctantly agrees to sleep with him. Sean's implied or latent homosexuality makes the union a failure. Sean goes on to menace and threaten Brian, who visits Tracy in Rome. Brian fails to persuade Tracy to return home with him to support him in his political aspirations, and Tracy remains behind with Sean. This leads to tragic consequences and a new, wealthy benefactor for Tracy who finally helps her realize her design ambitions.

Tracy becomes demanding, cruel to her employees, and unwilling to express her appreciation to her new benefactor by becoming his mistress. She finds her career is not all she dreamed it would be without the love and support of Brian. Tracy realizes she must decide whether to continue with her material lifestyle and loveless relationship in Rome or return to the man she loves in Chicago.


Diana Ross American vocalist, music artist and actress

Diana Ross is an American singer, actress, and record producer. Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Ross rose to fame as the lead singer of the vocal group the Supremes, which, during the 1960s, became Motown's most successful act, and are the best charting girl group in US history, as well as one of the world's best-selling girl groups of all time. The group released a record-setting twelve number-one hit singles on the US Billboard Hot 100, including "Where Did Our Love Go", "Baby Love", "Come See About Me", "Stop! In the Name of Love", "You Can't Hurry Love", "You Keep Me Hangin' On", "Love Child", and "Someday We'll Be Together".

Billy Dee Williams American actor, artist, and singer

William December "Billy Dee" Williams Jr. is an American actor, artist, and singer. Williams is best known for his role as Lando Calrissian in the Star Wars film franchise, first appearing in The Empire Strikes Back in 1980. Williams has also appeared in critically acclaimed films like Brian's Song (1971), Lady Sings the Blues (1972), Mahogany (1975), Nighthawks (1981), and Batman (1989), in which he portrayed Harvey Dent.

Jean-Pierre Aumont actor

Jean-Pierre Aumont was a French actor, and holder of the Legion d'Honneur and the Croix de Guerre for his World War II military service.

Theme song

The film and its soundtrack include a Ross-sung theme song, "Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To)", which became a #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1976. It held the number-one spot for one week (January 18January 24, 1976), replacing "I Write the Songs" by Barry Manilow and replaced by "Love Rollercoaster" by the Ohio Players. "Theme from Mahogany", written by Michael Masser and Gerald Goffin and produced by Masser, was the best-reviewed element of Mahogany[ citation needed ] and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song. The song was recorded by Mariah Carey in 1998 and by Sony Music labelmate Jennifer Lopez the following year.

<i>Mahogany</i> (soundtrack) 1975 soundtrack album by Diana Ross

Mahogany was the second original motion picture soundtrack by Diana Ross, following her 1972 release Lady Sings the Blues. The soundtrack from the film Mahogany included the chart-topping single "Theme from Mahogany", which peaked at number-one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in January 1976. The single's B-side, "No One's Gonna Be a Fool Forever", was not released as an album track. The soundtrack reached #19 in the USA and sold over 275,000 copies.

Theme from <i>Mahogany</i> (Do You Know Where Youre Going To) single

"Theme from Mahogany" is a song written by Michael Masser and Gerry Goffin, and initially recorded by American singer Thelma Houston in 1973, and then most notably by Diana Ross as the theme to the 1975 Motown/Paramount film Mahogany.

The Billboard Hot 100 is the music industry standard record chart in the United States for songs, published weekly by Billboard magazine. Chart rankings are based on sales, radio play, and online streaming in the United States.


The film was nominated for the best original song Academy Award (Michael Masser, Gerry Goffin).

Michael William Masser was an American songwriter, composer and producer of popular music.

Gerald Goffin was an American lyricist. Writing initially with his wife Carole King, he co-wrote many international pop hits of the early and mid-1960s, including the US No.1 hits "Will You Love Me Tomorrow", "Take Good Care of My Baby", "The Loco-Motion", and "Go Away Little Girl". It was later said of Goffin that his gift was "to find words that expressed what many young people were feeling but were unable to articulate."

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

Release and reception

Mahogany was released on VHS home video in the 1990s, and was issued on DVD on May 1, 2007.[ citation needed ]

The movie currently holds a 29% "Rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 14 critics. [5]

See also

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  1. MOVIE CALL SHEET: Gordy to Direct 'Mahogany' Murphy, Mary. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 17 Jan 1975: f18.
  3. Mahogany and Marshall Field's
  4. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-05.
  5. "Mahogany (1975)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2014-02-01.